Thursday, August 11, 2011

Madison B-Cycle Bike Sharing System

I just got back from the lovely town of Madison, Wisconsin where I was busy getting the inside scoop on what Trek has in the works at an annual conference called Trek World. While I was there, I got to check out Madison B-cycle, the city's bike sharing system. The system is pretty slick.

As a Trek World attendee, I got a complimentary 7-day access pass to the system but I did have to register a credit card because the credit card becomes the key that identifies a user to the system. Also, the system is optimal for short trips and to encourage this, trips under 30 minutes are free. If I'd opted to keep a bike for a longer period, that usage would be billed to my credit card. Using the system for a couple of days, I only did the short trips and never incurred any fees.

If you go to the B-cycle website, you'll get a full explanation of how things work, so I won't fully explain it all again here. What I will say is that the system works well, the bikes are fun & functional and the system is very easy to use.

There are a bunch of places where you can grab a bike, and maps showing you where other stations are and giving someone like me, who was new in town, a good orientation of where things are at.

The kiosk is like an ATM. Slide your card in follow a few prompts and in 30 seconds you have a bike.

Once you've swiped your card and made your choice, the racks unlocks the bike you've chosen.

The bikes feature a three-speed hub (fine for fairly flat Madison), a quick release seat clamp so you can easily adjust saddle height, full fenders, tough tires, a basket and a bike lock. The bikes also have a an electrical generator built into the front hub. If the bike is rolling, its lights are on.

You can return the bike to any B-cycle station and every time I returned a bike, I got a nice email informing me the return really worked. I never had a problem finding a bike when I needed one but I did ride by one completely empty rack at one point in my visit.

The B-cycle was a great asset to me as a visitor to the town. I got to see more, do more and have more fun in Madison than I ever could by walking or driving. If you ever are visiting a town that has a bike share system, check it out.

I'm very happy that Madison has a B-cycle system so I could keep rolling while I was in town.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
now back in Issaquah WA USA and thinking we should get a B-cycle system here.


Anonymous said...

I saw a similar system in Denver, CO. I think ALL cities should employ these bike sharing systems. Come on, America, get out and ride a bike!

Tommy Williams said...

I almost hate to ask it, but what about helmets? I know why my own helmets look like and I would sure hate to share that with someone else.

Kent Peterson said...


There is no mandatory helmet law in Madison. I'd estimate 20% of the folks I saw riding wore helmets.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Des Moines has those! Haven't tried one yet but I plan to someday for fun and/or blog fodder. They seem to get a lot of use on the paved riverfront trails in and around downtown.

Glad to see that Madison went with red as (I presume) an homage to their "red bike" sharing program that pre-dated B-Cycle.

Jason "I Still Prefer My Midwestern State Capitol" Nunemaker, in Des Moines, IA

Anonymous said...

There's a similar system in London, England. Called Barclays Cycle Hire, or Boris Bikes (after the Mayor of London), it's a very handy system for getting around the city. For travelers, it's really excellent -- if you can safely get in the swing of local traffic flow!